Fronela is one of the strangest and wildest regions in Glorantha. Normally when I try to get a handle on a region, I ponder its history, how the various peoples interact and communicate, and how that changes things through Time.
For Fronela, that’s all wrong. Up until quite recently – the last 40 years – all communication between communities (but more on what “community” means later) in Fronela was cut off thanks to the Syndics Ban. For a century or more, each community was completely isolated and autonomous.
So imagine being a member of the Jonating tribe. In 1499, the Ban appeared, cutting your tribe off from everything. There was the royal city of Okarnia, the hunting lodge of Redelos, the wizard tower-town of Kerantos, the Library Town of Thanmor, the town of Doleford, and the great carved tomb called Jonah’s Hill.
And that’s everything. You can see the snow-capped Nidan and Rockwood Mountains not far away, but you can’t get there, even by flying. You can boat on Samita Lake, but you can’t ever go to the far shore. Go to the edge of your lands and you are forced back. For about a hundred years, that is the entire world.
During the Ban, these communities were like a video game, with elements of Mervyn Peake and Fallout’s Vaults. For about a hundred years, they were isolated and developed completely on their own. Some thrived in isolation, others withered away and died. Many ossified, frozen into place with rites and laws no longer understood, others were radically transformed.
These communities ranged in size from a couple of hundred families to the Kingdom of Loskalm, with almost 180,000 square kilometers.
And then starting in 1582, the Ban began to lift. The fog just disappeared, and a brand new kaleidoscope of communities and people were there to be discovered. The process took about 40 years, and is still not totally complete. But as a result, big things are afoot in Fronela.
Something else about Fronela – Valind’s Glacier and the Neliomi Sea. It gets cold in Fronela, colder than the Lunar Heartlands (although much of the West Reaches and Erigia is pretty similar). Northern Fronela has a boreal climate, most of the rest has a humid continental climate with warm summers.
While pre-Ban history is not as important in understanding Fronela (except for one group who slept through the Ban), myth is. This is a place with many wild and untamed Air gods, powerful spirits of beast and nature, and where light and fire are needed.
So let’s think a little about our Jonating player character. Born around 1604, for the past hundred years, there was nothing outside Jonat-land. We have the cult of Jonat Big Bear, the Library God, a bunch of war gods, Grain Goddess and her Plough God son-lover, and in the distance we can see Orlanth-of-the-Mountains. We’ve got the wizards that reside within the City of Bronze Gates. We are ruled by a dynasty of kings who trace their lineage to Jonas Big Bear, who prove their worth by hunting, fornicating, and fighting off their brothers and other claimants to the throne. Pretty exciting – we could have a good game there!
But then in 1616, the Ban is lifted. Our king shows his awesomeness by beating up the new neighbors and getting them to acknowledge him as King. The King conquests Mother’s Hill, and gets the submission of all the rulers to Ayos, Srodos, and Bakanos. The King defeats the Queen of Panach in battle, marries her, and founds New Market (which is a new boomtown thanks to a newly discovered trade route to Ralios). Within a few years, we have a kingdom of over a million people, a hodgepodge of principalities and tribes held together by King Congern. How exiting!
Meanwhile we know that to northwest is the ever-growing Kingdom of War, with its thousand war gods. And to the west is arrogant and proud Loskalm, a kingdom that views itself as inherently better than the rest of the world.
Is Jonatela different from your typical Orlanthi kingdom because of the westernized aristocracy? I quite deliberately tried to describe it without using terms like “westernised aristocracy”, as I think those labels miss the point.
So Jonatela is not medieval (feudal) Russia either? So during that hundred year period, I suspect the Jonas Big Bear dynasty, backed up by their war gods, managed to squeeze everything they could out of the farmers, and then bartered that with the Library Town and the City of Wizards. In that regard, we can see elements of Medieval Russia, but I am sure we can find plenty of other sources of inspiration as well.
Loskalm is the big success story. After the Ban went down, King Siglat, the divine son of Prince Snodal, got to remark the kingdom into a Malkioni Republic. A combination of Plato, Lycurgus, Solon, John Calvin, Robespierre, and Lenin, all rolled into one, Siglat was able to transform Loskalm into a radical experiment into applied Malkionism. Sacrifices and priesthoods to other gods were ended, natural forces were bent to the benefit of the people of Loskalm through sorcery. A system of examinations were established to put people in the correct caste, which also meant there needed to be a system of education in the teachings of Malkion and other important matters.
Another interesting thing is the Arrolian Properties – the cities of Riverjoin and Eastpoint. Eastpoint had been settled by Lunar colonists in 1384, and was released from the Ban in 1589 (one of Jar-eel’s first deeds was as one of the Legions of Infants that arrived there). Riverjoin was converted to the Lunar Religion in 1462 and was freed from the Ban in 1597. Both of these cities are independent and autonomous, although they are friendly towards the Lunar Empire.
Note that the Arrolian Properties population is not Lunar (they certainly wouldn’t view themselves that way). Its founders came from the Lunar Empire in 1389. It has been political independent from the Empire since 1460 and had no contact at all from 1499 to 1603. Saying they are “Lunars” is like saying that Pres. Taft was an “Englishman”.
This is the difficulty of using a label for so many different meanings. The Lunar religion is dominant in the Arrolian Properties, but they are not “Lunars” in the sense of loyal to the Lunar Empire.
Fronela also has Glorantha’s largest boreal forest, Greatwood. This forest extends from Erigia to Upriver. It is home to the Bear People, who are the most numerous Hsunchen people.